woman holding up COVID-19 vaccination card

(Credit: scaliger / Getty Images)

Connecticut assisted living communities that fail to comply with an executive order mandating staff COVID-19 vaccinations could face up to $15 million in penalties.

Last week, the Connecticut Department of Public Health began issuing the first round of civil penalties to assisted living services agencies, managed residential communities, residential care homes and other long-term care facilities that did not submit reports attesting to their compliance with the order by the Sept. 28 deadline.

Connecticut Assisted Living Association President Christopher Carter told McKnight’s Senior Living he believes that most of the underreporting is “purely the result of either confusion and / or miscommunication.” CALA, a state partner of Argentum, has offered to assist the state with achieving full reporting compliance and to serve as a resource, he added.

Matt Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association for Health Care Facilities / Connecticut Center for Assisted Living, the state affiliate of the American Health Care Association / National Center for Assisted Living, agreed. He told McKnight’s Senior Living that, at first glance, the initial fines appear to be largely related to administrative or delayed reporting.

Both Carter and Barrett said that senior living, in particular, is facing workforce challenges, but neither anticipates that the vaccine mandate will have a major effect on staffing levels.

“While any impact on staffing, whatsoever, is an issue in this environment, if the experience for assisted living communities in Connecticut tracks the skilled nursing home experience, we can anticipate high rates of staff vaccine compliance and, in combination with allowed sincerely held religious and medical exemptions, the staffing impact numbers should not be as high as initially feared,” Barrett said.

Of the state’s 643 long-term care facilities subject to the order, 116 (35%) did not submit reports to the state by the Sept. 28 deadline. Fifty-nine facilities submitted late reports, resulting in the DPH issuing $221,000 in civil penalties to 26 facilities. 

“Recognizing the challenges of implementing the order,” DPH waived $1.5 million in penalties for late reporters in a seven-day grace period. Although 33 facilities incurred no penalties as a result, four assisted living services agencies were charged $90,000 in fines. 

Another 122 facilities failed to report through Oct. 21, leading to daily penalties of $5,000 per day for assisted living service agencies, managed residential communities, nursing homes, chronic disease hospitals and intermediate care facilities for individuals with disabilities. Residential care homes face a $500-per-day penalty.

DPH continues to review facilities that have not filed reports, indicating that those facilities may be assessed ongoing penalties and will lose the seven-day grace period. Those facilities may end up owing the state $15 million in fines.

The state health department also is auditing submitted reports to determine compliance with the vaccine mandates. Failure to comply could subject facilities to up to $20,0000 in civil penalties per day.

“The purpose of this vaccine mandate is to protect the health and safety of the patients and residents in long-term care, as well as the health and safety of the staff, their families and their co-workers,” DPH Commissioner Manisha Juthani, MD, said in a statement. “Reporting timely and accurately to DPH helps the state ensure that the long-term care industry is meeting this goal and brings confidence to the community that our most vulnerable citizens are safe.”

Read more about the mandate and fines in our sister publication McKnight’s Long-Term Care.